Wednesday, September 20, 2006

10 mental perfections

The Mental Perfections (paramis = paramitas) are:

1: Generosity (Dana)
2: Morality (Sila)
3: Withdrawal (Nekkhamma)
4: Understanding (Panna)
5: Enthusiastic Energy (Viriya)
6: Patient Forbearance (Khanti)
7: Honesty & Truthfulness (Sacca)
8: Resolute Determination (Adhitthana)
9: Kind Friendliness (Metta)
10: Balanced Equanimity (Upekkha)

The Buddha said:
'So few as these only, are these supreme mental qualities,
which matures Awakening. There is nothing elsewhere
beyond them! Be thorough, firm & complete in them...'

These 10 mental perfections are developed to three levels:

I: Those who awakens as disciples = Savaka-Bodhis
give all possessions away including wife and kids...

II: Those who awakens as Solitary Buddhas = Pacekkha-Buddhas
give an organ, limb or eye away...

III: Those who awakens as Perfect Buddhas = SammasamBuddhas
give even their own life away.

The basic perfection of generosity is the relinquishing of one's children,
wives, and belongings, such as wealth; the intermediate perfection of
giving, the relinquishing of one's own limbs; and the ultimate perfection
of giving, the relinquishing of one's own life. The three stages in the
perfection of morality should be understood as the non-transgression
of morality on account of the three: children and wife, limbs, and life;
the three stages in the perfection of withdrawal, as the withdrawal of
those three bases after cutting off attachment to them; the three stages
in the perfection of understanding, as the discrimination between what
is beneficial and harmful to beings after rooting out craving for one's
belongings, limbs, and life; the three stages in the perfection of energy,
as striving for the relinquishing of the aforementioned things; the three
stages in the perfection of patience, as the endurance of obstacles to
one's belongings, limbs, and life; the three stages in the perfection of
Honesty, as the non-abandoning of honesty on account of one's belongings,
limbs, & life; the three stages of perfection of determination, as unshakeable
determination despite the destruction of one's belongings, limbs, & life,
bearing in mind that perfections ultimately succeed through a unflinching
determination; the three stages in the perfection of friendliness, as the
maintaining of friendliness towards any who destroy one's belongings; the
three stages in the perfection of equanimity, as maintaining an attitude of
impartial neutrality towards beings & constructions, whether they are helpful
or harmful in regard to the aforementioned three: belongings, limbs, and life.
In this way the analysis of the mental perfections should be understood.

Source: Commentary on the Basket of behaviour. Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi in
Discourse on the All-Embracing Net of Views


Chetana said...


What language do the words in parentheses come from?

If they are Sanskrit, then there seems to be errors in spelling.

For e.g. forbearance is kshaanti not khaanti.

Similarly, equanimity is upeksha. Well, upeksha has negative connotations too in the language but I presume you are talking about upeksha. I am not sure what upekkha means.

I could be totally wrong and the words may have been taken from Pali of which I have zero knowledge.


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Carina said...

Why should one give his wife and children away, who'd give him the right to sacrifice their lifes? Don't they have the right to decide by themselves about their destiny?

Sumedho said...

The language that the author used is in Pali, which is what the original teachings of the Buddha were preserved in. In the Theravadin tradition, we have 10 mental perfections rather than the 6 in the Mahayana tradition. Even so, these teachings were added later than the main and older parts of the Sutta Piṭaka (Majjhima Nikāya, Digha Nikāya, Saṃyutta Nikāya and the Aṅguttara Nikāya). So as an actual teaching from the Buddha himself, it is debatable. Though you can find many of these mental perfections scattered throughout the texts (i.e. Metta Sutta, Pañña Sutta, etc), but not in such a systematic way as in the later texts.